They've flown under the radar for much of 2017, but with an Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoff spot secure, teams in the Eastern Conference should fear a Columbus Crew SC team who are in their best form of the season at exactly the right time.


With their 2-0 win against D.C. United on Saturday, Crew SC pushed their unbeaten run to eight games and closed in on the Chicago Fire for the No. 4 seed in the East. If Columbus pass Chicago, they'll host the Knockout Round matchup at MAPFRE Stadium instead of having to travel.


The unbeaten run has partly been fueled by stellar play from Federico Higuain, who has six assists in his last six games, and Ola Kamara's five goals. Considering his form, it's no surprise that Higuain and Crew SC agreed on Tuesday to extend the Argentine's contract another year.


The improvement of the defense, led by Jonathan Mensah and the insertion of Josh Williams into the starting XI, has also been a major factor. After conceding 39 goals in their first 24 games, Crew SC have conceded just eight goals in their last eight games.


This uptick is easily seen when looking at expected goals data provided by Opta. In the chart below you can see their five-match rolling xGD over the course of the season. Basically, it looks at their expected goal difference over five-match stretches after each match of the season. So the bar you see along with the No. 5 below represents their xGD over the first five games of the season. Looking at the bar matched up with the No. 30 gives you their total xGD over games 26-30.


As you can see, after a difficult middle of the season, they've hit a high over the last 8-10 games.

Columbus in their best form of 2017 at perfect time | Expected Goals - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/CLB%20rolling%20xGD.png?c.dXBxTngGgl4tAWwoEKzTkfiiw9z0AM

With that, we'll dive into the xG numbers from Week 30. A couple of important notes before looking at the numbers: Penalties have a value of 0.79, and own goals are not factored into the values.

Game
Result
Home xG
Away xG
Atlanta United vs. Philadelphia Union
3-0
1.48
.43
New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United
3-3
2.50
.94
Montreal Impact vs. New York City FC
0-1
.69
3.68
Orlando City SC vs. New England Revolution
6-1
2.74
.58
FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids
2-0
1.88
.40
Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy
3-3
2.43
.58
Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
3-0
2.12
.62
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Chicago Fire
1-4
2.18
3.18
Orlando City SC vs. FC Dallas 
0-0
1.05
1.10
Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls
4-2
2.90
1.67
Columbus Crew SC vs. D.C. United
2-0
1.01
.71
New England Revolution vs. Atlanta United
0-0
.95
1.00
Chicago Fire vs. New York City FC
1-1
.97
1.16
Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United FC
2-1
3.18
.30
Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
0-1
1.90
.92
Colorado Rapids vs. Montreal Impact
2-1
.89
.86
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers
2-1
2.08
1.18
LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake
1-1
2.35
2.39
Philadelphia Union vs. Seattle Sounders
2-0
1.22
1.31
Columbus in their best form of 2017 at perfect time | Expected Goals - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/Opta-MLS-lockup.jpg